Boys basketball: Four area teams still alive
To appreciate how good the four area boys basketball teams are that survived last weekend's section playoffs, consider a few of the teams that did not make it through.
Willmar won 18 games and its first outright Central Lakes Conference championship in eight years. But the Cards exited the postseason on Saturday against Mankato East.
Two 20-plus win teams, Montevideo and MACCRAY, were eliminated in sub-section championship games on Saturday. Monte (22-6) lost by two to Redwood Valley and MACCRAY (22-7) lost to its Camden Conference rival, Dawson-Boyd. Monte was the West Central South Conference champion and MACCRAY, which finished third in the Class A state tournament last year, suffered it's only Camden loss to D-B.
And a 16-win Morris/Chokio-Alberta team that finished second to Monte in the West Central South, lost by 18 on Saturday to a Benson team that the Tigers defeated by 20, on the road, earlier this season.
"When you're at this point in the season, every team is good," said Litchfield head coach John Carlson following his team's win over Minnewaska on Saturday. "You just have to play the best you can and hopefully that will get it done."
No matter how good, no matter the record, it's tough this time of year to roll ahead in pursuit of a state tournament berth. Here's a look at the teams that hope to keep on keeping on today and Thursday:
Litchfield (22-5) vs. Benson (18-9)
Section 6AA South Sub-Section final
Game today, 6 p.m., at St. John's University
Litchfield would appear to be the favorite but it's hard to make that assumption based on how the Braves roughed up Morris/CA on Saturday.
Litchfield also defeated the Tigers, at Target Center, this season, and the Dragons have won five in a row after losing three of four games during a 10-day stretch in mid-February. Litchfield can burn hot, too, as was evident when the Dragons' led highly-ranked Watertown-Mayer (26-2) and won by 13 in a late January game.
Benson also has gotten itself together in the last month of the season. The Braves have won five of their last six, with the lone defeat coming against Montevideo and two of Benson's top players shelved by injury and illness.
After a so-so start to the year, Benson has produced half of its 18 victories in the past 12 games, and the three losses came against Dawson-Boyd (26-2), Monte (22-6) and Melrose (20-9).
Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa (28-0) vs. Battle Lake (25-1)
Section 6A South Sub-Section final
Game today, 8 p.m., at the University of Minnesota, Morris
BBE has lost so few games the last four years the Jaguars can probably recount them play-by-pay. Since the 2008-09 season, the Jaguars are 109-10 and they are 50-1 the last two years, with the lone defeat coming in last season's Class A championship game.
This season, the Jaguars have played as if on a mission to make amends for that loss. With the exception of a five-point overtime win Feb. 24 over Class AA Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted, a sprinkling of 10 or 12-point victories have counted as close games.
But the Jaguars could have problems with Battle Lake, which BBE defeated 61-33 in last year's sub-section final at UMM.
The Battlers opened this season with 23-straight wins before losing their regular-season finale to Class AA Pelican Rapids (25-3). They then opened the playoffs with a 24-point win over Wheaton/Herman-Norcross and dispatched 21-4 Ashby by 11 points on Saturday at UMM.
Dawson-Boyd (26-2) vs. Southwest Minnesota Christian (25-1)
Section 3A final
Game Thursday, 8 p.m., at Southwest Minnesota State University
A couple of long winning streaks will be on the line when the Blackjacks and Eagles meet with a state tournament berth on the line.
Dawson-Boyd is riding an 18-game streak and has won those games by an average of 26 points. The Blackjacks haven't lost since a one-point loss at MACCRAY on Jan. 13 and since then has defeated the Wolverines twice, including a convincing 16-point win in the North Sub-Section final on Saturday.
But the Eagles, winners of 19-straight games, will pose a formidable obstacle for D-B. SWMC's lone loss came Jan. 6 by one-point to Class AA Worthington (20-6), which will play Redwood Valley for the Section 3AA championship in the game before the Blackjacks and Eagles meet at Southwest Minnesota State.